Intel held a keynote at Hot Chips conference in Stanford University last week where it announced some details of upcoming Itanium CPUs. While originally meant to conquer the enterprise market, Itanium is mostly used for the ultra high end enterprise space. Itanium isn't backwards compatible with x86 and uses Intel's VLIW IA-64 architecture. Intel claims that Itanium is a four billion dollar business and more than 80% of world's top 100 companies utilize Itanium.

The codename for the new CPUs is "Poulson" and it is the 10th Itanium CPU lineup. The biggest updates are a new architecture, twice as many cores (up to eight), twice the instruction throughput and a 32nm process. 

Comparison of Itanium CPUs
  Poulson Tukwila
Core/Thread Count Up to 8/16 Up to 4/8
Frequency TBA Up to 1.73GHz
L3 Cache Up to 32MB (?) Up to 24MB
Manufacturing Process 32nm 65nm
Transistor Count 3.1 billion 2.046 billion
Die Size 544mm^2 (?) 699mm^2

What's interesting is that Intel is skipping the 45nm process totally and going straight for 32nm. The process change alone would be huge but throw in a new architecture too and Poulson looks like a major upgrade from Tukwila. Doubling the cores is a very aggressive move as well, although not surprising due to the die shrink.

Lets look at the new architecture and the features it provides. First, the new architecture will bring a new feature: Intel Instruction Replay Technology. By inserting instruction buffers between pipeline stages Poulson can more quickly recover from an error in the pipeline. Rather than having to completely flush the pipeline and start over from scratch, Poulson can simply begin execution at the last known good instruction buffer. 

Second, the Hyper-Threading Technology receives some improvements. Intel calls the new feature dual-domain multithreading, which Intel describes as allowing for independent front end and back end pipeline execution. 

Since the introduction of Tukwila in 2010, Itanium CPUs have shared the same chipset as Xeon MP CPUs (Becton and Westmere-EX) - i.e. the 7500 chipset. Poulson will continue this pattern and will use the same 7500 chipset as its predecessor. This was and still is a smart move from Intel as it allows clients to reuse many elements of existing Itanium designs.

Source: Intel

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  • heymrdj - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    This looks a bit stronger than rumors were first hinting at. Can't wait to see some tests run when they come out. Would love to put a couple of them to use if some of my bigger clients could afford them.
  • Lord 666 - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    But can it run Crysis?
  • AmdInside - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    I remember when it used to be "but can it run Quake". Yeah, I'm old.
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    Well, Crysis is coded for x86 so it can't ;-)
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    I don't think these are x86 processors.
  • gevorg - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    Saving the 22nm fabs for the more lucrative Ivy Bridge market?
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    That might be part of the reason, but I think Intel just wants to keep yields up for those big dies (dice?). The mature 32nm process probably helps yields.
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    Enterprise market is always behind in this category. The complexity of Ivy Bridge or consumer chips in general is nothing compared to these chips. That requires more money and time, and there is absolutely no room for flaws in the final product when your clients are possibly shoveling hundreds of millions for these chips.

    For example Westmere-EX came a lot later than original Westmere and the same is happening with Sandy Bridge-E.
  • James5mith - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    "That requires more money and time, and there is absolutely no room for flaws in the final product when your clients are possibly shoveling hundreds of millions >>>of dollars<<< for these chips."

    Fixed that for ya. ;)

    Seriously though, the hundreds of millions of units would be the consumer chips and lower end x86 server chips. I would be surprised if Itanium has shipped 100 million chips since the original Merced design. High end server CPU's aren't about volume, they are about insane profit margins on a very small number of chips.
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    I meant dollars (or money in general), not units. Maybe I should have been more clear, but it was already late night! :P

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